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Integrated geoscience studies in the Greater Yellowstone Area - Volcanic, tectonic, and hydrothermal processes in the Yellowstone geoecosystem

December 22, 2007

Yellowstone National Park, rimmed by a crescent of older mountainous terrain, has at its core the Quaternary Yellowstone Plateau, an undulating landscape shaped by forces of volcanism, tectonism, and later glaciation. Its spectacular hydrothermal systems cap this landscape. From 1997 through 2003, the United States Geological Survey Mineral Resources Program conducted a multidisciplinary project of Yellowstone National Park entitled Integrated Geoscience Studies of the Greater Yellowstone Area, building on a 130-year foundation of extensive field studies (including the Hayden survey of 1871, the Hague surveys of the 1880s through 1896, the studies of Iddings, Allen, and Day during the 1920s, and NASA-supported studies starting in the 1970s—now summarized in USGS Professional Paper 729 A through G) in this geologically dynamic terrain. The project applied a broad range of scientific disciplines and state-of-the-art technologies targeted to improve stewardship of the unique natural resources of Yellowstone and enable the National Park Service to effectively manage resources, protect park visitors from geologic hazards, and better educate the public on geologic processes and resources. This project combined a variety of data sets in characterizing the surficial and subsurface chemistry, mineralogy, geology, geophysics, and hydrothermal systems in various parts of the park.

The sixteen chapters presented herein in USGS Professional Paper 1717, Integrated Geoscience Studies in the Greater Yellowstone Area—Volcanic, Tectonic, and Hydrothermal Processes in the Yellowstone Geoecosystem, can be divided into four major topical areas: (1) geologic studies, (2) Yellowstone Lake studies, (3) geochemical studies, and (4) geophysical studies. The geologic studies include a paper by Ken Pierce and others on the influence of the Yellowstone hotspot on landscape formation, the ecological effects of the hotspot, and the human experience and human geography of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem as influenced by the Yellowstone hotspot. Another paper by Paul Carrara describes the recent movement of a large landslide block dated by tree-ring analyses in the Tower Falls area. The section under Yellowstone Lake studies begins with a classic paper by J. David Love and others on ancestral Lake Yellowstone. Other papers in this section include results and interpretation of the high-resolution bathymetric, seismic reflection, and submersible studies by Lisa Morgan and others. Ken Pierce and others describe results from their studies of shorelines along Yellowstone Lake and their interpretation of inflation-deflation cycles, tilting, and faulting in the Yellowstone caldera. The influence of sublacustrine hydrothermal vent fluids on the geochemistry of Yellowstone Lake is described by Laurie Balistrieri and others. In Pat Shanks and others’ chapter, hydrothermal reactions, stable-isotope systematics, sinter deposition, and spire formation are related to the geochemistry of sublacustrine hydrothermal deposits in Yellowstone Lake. The geochemical studies section considers park-wide geochemical systems in Yellowstone National Park. In Bob Rye and Alfred Truesdell’s paper, the question of recharge to the deep thermal reservoir underlying the geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park is discussed. Irving Friedman and Dan Norton report on the chloride flux emissions from Yellowstone in their paper questioning whether Yellowstone is losing its steam. Wildlife issues as addressed by examining trace-element and stable-isotope geochemistry are discussed in a chapter by Maurice Chaffee and others. In another chapter by Chaffee and others, natural and anthropogenic anomalies and their potential impact on the environment using geochemistry is reported. Pam Gemery-Hill and others present geochemical data for selected rivers, lake waters, hydrothermal vents, and subaerial geysers for the time interval of 1996–2004. The life cycle of gold deposits near the northeast corner of the park is discussed by Brad Van Gosen. Under the geophysical studies segment, Ray Kokaly and others use AVIRIS (Airborne Visible and Infrared Spectroscopy) data to map vegetation cover and microbial communities in Yellowstone National Park. Eric Livo and others report their results using AVIRIS data on hydrothermally altered rock and hot-spring deposits. In his final paper following a half century of scientific research, Irving Friedman presents data on monitoring changes in geothermal activity at Norris Geyser Basin using satellite telemetry. These papers summarize a near-decade-long effort by the USGS from the late 1990s to mid-2000s.

In 2001, the USGS in cooperation with the National Park Service (Yellowstone National Park) and the University of Utah established the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, the 5th volcano observatory in the United States.

Publication Year 2007
Title Integrated geoscience studies in the Greater Yellowstone Area - Volcanic, tectonic, and hydrothermal processes in the Yellowstone geoecosystem
DOI 10.3133/pp1717
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Professional Paper
Series Number 1717
Index ID pp1717
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center; Volcano Hazards Program